Densho Digital Archive
Twin Cities JACL Collection
Title: Mary T. Yoshida Interview
Narrator: Mary T. Yoshida
Interviewer: Megan Asaka
Location: Bloomington, Minnesota
Date: June 18, 2009
Densho ID: denshovh-ymary-01

<Begin Segment 1>

MA: Today is June 18, 2009, and I'm here with Mary Yoshida in Minneapolis, Minnesota. And I'm Megan Asaka, the interviewer, and the cameraperson is Dana Hoshide. So Mary, thank you so much for doing this interview with us.

MY: You're welcome.

MA: I wanted to start by asking you where you were born.

MY: I was born in a small town in, called Central Point, Oregon.

MA: And when were you born?

MY: 1923.

MA: And what was the name given to you at birth? What was your name?

MY: As far as I know, it was Mary.

MA: And your maiden name?

MY: Takao.

MA: Mary Takao?

MY: Uh-huh.

MA: And you told me that your mother passed away when you were very young.

MY: Uh-huh.

MA: Do you know anything about her background or where she was from in Japan?

MY: No, I don't, I should have probably looked it up. I have, I think I have a birth certificate that indicates that, but I'm sorry I didn't come prepared for that. [Laughs]

MA: Oh, no, that's okay. And how old were you when your mother passed away?

MY: My birth date is confusing, but I think I must have been, I'm guessing, around three. Because my youngest sister is two years younger than I am.

MA: So you were very, very young.

MY: Yes, yes, so I don't really remember much about her at all. In fact, my birthday is so confusing because for, what, 'til the war started, I thought I was a year older. Because I had gone by the birth date of 1922, and discovered when I got my birth certificate that I was born in 1923. [Laughs] So I get confused.

MA: So tell me a little bit about your father. Where was, do you know where he was from in Japan, or his story about how he came to the United States?

MY: I don't know too much. He never talked. But he's from Shikoku in Japan where his family is. And he came to the States, they sent him to the States to study at, as I understand it, at the University of Oregon to study English.

MA: So he came over as a student, then.

MY: Yes, evidently, uh-huh. Then he went back and married his arranged bride. And since I have two brothers that were killed in the war in Japan, he must have stayed in Japan after he was married. So I don't really know when he came to the States.

MA: And your brothers who were killed during World War II in Japan, so they were your brothers but you never met them?

MY: I never met them. The only time I discovered that I even had two brothers was when my father got a letter from Japan telling him that his two sons had been killed. And that was the first I had known about it.

MA: And tell me about your siblings. So you had the two brothers in Japan that you didn't know, what about your siblings in the U.S.?

MY: They're all gone except for my younger sister. But I had two older sisters. The oldest one I never did know. But the second one, she was a nurse in Seattle and we kind of kept in touch with her. And then I had a brother here who had polio, so he was in the hospital in Portland most of his younger years. So it took years later, after camp, that we got to know him.

MA: Oh, so he had polio as a child, then?

MY: Uh-huh. That's my understanding. I have no documentation or anything about those.

MA: So it was two older sisters, a brother, and then you and your younger sister?

MY: Yes.

MA: Okay.

MY: And then the two older ones that were killed in the war.

MA: Right, in Japan.

MY: Uh-huh.

MA: And you told me that you were sent to live with an Issei couple, foster parents. When did that happen? How old were you?

MY: I'm guessing I must have been, like, about fifth or sixth grade. Because I remember going to this school in Tolo when I used to take my younger sister with me, we went to school there. So I'm guessing it must have been when I was about fifth or sixth grade that we, my younger sister and I went to live with this foster family.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

MA: And do you have any other memories of living in Central Point before you moved on with your foster family?

MY: No, I don't have too much. We just lived on the farm, so we didn't have any, I didn't have any contact with the, any Oriental, you know, Japanese families in Medford. That's where they, most, the majority of the Japanese lived. But my father was in touch with them, I think.

MA: What type of work did your father do?

MY: He was a truck farmer like all the other people that came over.

MA: And why did your father send you to live with foster parents, you and your sister?

MY: He just couldn't manage. We had, well, we lost one home because he couldn't pay the rent, evidently. So we had to move into a smaller quarters, and as I understand, it was a reconstructed garage that our family kind of squeezed into. So it was just too crowded, evidently, and he couldn't manage.

MA: And did, were these, was this Issei couple that you lived with, were they family friends? Did you know them?

MY: No, no. I don't know, they were just members of the Japanese community. And I don't know how all that came about.

MA: And did they live pretty close by to your father?

MY: No, they lived, they lived in Medford, we were living in Central Point at that time. But they lived on a farm, too, they were farming.

MA: Were they also doing, like, truck farming?

MY: Uh-huh, yeah.

MA: Can you explain a little bit about truck farming and what that is?

MY: It seems that the Isseis that came over looking for a better life, evidently. And it was the means of survival, actually. They planted all kinds of vegetables, and then they branched out into dairy, trees with fruits, that kind of, anything that would bring some kind of an income to survive. So I think that's the basis for this truck farming that started all over the West Coast.

MA: And where would your, I guess, your foster parents, what were their names, by the way?

MY: Yokotas.

MA: The Yokotas. Where would they sell their produce and their fruit?

MY: I think they took them into the city, to these farmer's market type of places.

MA: And sell it there?

MY: And they, I don't know how the arrangements were, but I don't know if they sold it or whether they just got money for the produce.

MA: And tell me a little bit about the Yokotas. What were they like?

MY: Typical Issei couple. Spoke no English, so fortunately, I learned my Japanese through them. But, and he built an ofuro out on the farm so that we could bathe that way. We had, my sister and I can't get our ideas straight as to whether we had electricity or not. [Laughs] But I do remember an outhouse that we had to go at night. It was, as I remember, it seemed like it was so far from the house, but evidently it wasn't. So it was kind of a reconstructed farm home, I guess. And they had horses and they had cows and chickens and turkeys and anything that would, that you could get food from.

MA: And what were your responsibilities on the farm? Did you and your sister have to work?

MY: Oh, yes, we worked from early morning, milking cows until late at night, after school, we weeded the gardens and took care of all the vegetables. And into the night we would, I remember washing vegetables that would be going to the market the next day. I remember the cold water, how our hands were just freezing. [Laughs] So our day was, started early in the morning and ended up late at night.

MA: Especially because you had to go to school during the day.

MY: Right.

MA: Did you also go to Japanese language school?

MY: No, they didn't have one in... I don't think they did in Medford. But, so Mrs. Yokota was teaching us Japanese writing, so I was thinking back and really appreciated that part. Although we didn't care for it when we were having to do all of this. But yes, that's where I learned my Japanese.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

MA: And so it sounds like Medford was a small town. Were there, was there like a Japanese church there or some sort of Japanese community place?

MY: There was a community, I don't know how many, but one restaurant owner and one family that ran a coffee shop in the hotel. And I can't remember what else. I think most of 'em were living around the city doing farming and that kind of thing. We had, there was a nucleus, a small group of Japanese that got together, especially at this one restaurant that everybody seemed to gather, I guess. We never got there, but...

MA: And you said that you went to live with your foster family in Medford about fifth or sixth grade?

MY: I think so.

MA: And so what about the school that you started to attend in Medford? Can you tell me a little bit about that and your experience at that school?

MY: In Medford? My sister and I went to this City School. Bus picked us up, so it was just a normal, small town school. And I went through there and graduated from Medford High School.

MA: When you were going to school, were there many Niseis that were also students with you? Was there a big Nisei population?

MY: No, no. In fact, I think probably, I was probably the only one in my grade, and my sister, too, in her grade. There weren't really that many Japanese families.

MA: And then who were your friends? Were they, then, mostly the Caucasian students?

MY: Caucasians, right. Yeah, I still keep in touch with a few of my high school friends that haven't passed on, you know.

MA: And what were some activities or hobbies that you were involved in in high school?

MY: I didn't really get involved in anything because we were bussed home right after school. I don't know if they had after-school activities or not. But we just caught the bus after school and went home.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

MA: And what were some of your, in high school, what were some of your goals? I know that you went on to college, was that always a, sort of, goal of yours, to go on to higher education?

MY: I'm not sure. I don't think I had any, actually, any plans. We just kind of lived day by day during that time. But it was my older sister that came down from Seattle, she's the one that encouraged me to go to college, and she took me to Oregon State College, drove me there and signed me up. So that was the beginning of my education.

MA: And this is your sister who, was she sent to live in Seattle? Or how did she get there?

MY: She was working, she was working as a nurse. I don't know how she got to Seattle, but she was working as a nurse in a TB sanitarium in Seattle. And she's always felt that, like she was responsible for my sister and I because she was older. And she had hard times, too, so took her a while. But I was fortunate that we did have her to kind of guide us.

MA: Well, it sounds like she was very influential in terms of encouraging you to pursue college.

MY: Yes, yes she was. So I ended up at Oregon State, and she somehow, I don't know how I arranged to get a home to be working in to pay for tuition and what have you, working in this home. In fact, most of the Niseis that were going to college were all working in homes to pay their way.

MA: How many students would you say from your high school went on to college?

MY: Gosh, I couldn't even begin to guess.

MA: Was it a common path, or was it sort of an anomaly that students would go on to college?

MY: I don't think... my guess would be there weren't too many. Because there was no college around that would influence them. And it was kind of like a farming community, actually, so I think the people mostly went on to farming or something in that line.

MA: And you said that you were, started attending Oregon State University, which is Corvallis?

MY: It's Oregon State College in Corvallis, right.

MA: Oregon State College of Corvallis. And so you lived, can you explain how you, where you worked and where you lived?

MY: Yeah. When I was... after high school graduation, Mrs. Yokota sent me to live with this Saito family in the city proper. They're the ones that managed -- I don't know if they owned -- but managed this coffee shop in the hotel. So I lived with them and worked at the coffee shop. And then from there, my sister arranged for me to go to Oregon State, so I worked about a year at the coffee shop and then went on to Corvallis and lived... and I don't know how we got this home that I... but it seems that she always took in students. She had a boy working to do the yardwork that lived in the basement, and I had room up in the third floor. And so I stayed, worked with, for her, going back and forth, until the war broke out.

MA: And was this a Nisei lady?

MY: No. She was what they sort of call a "staunch citizen of Corvallis." [Laughs] So evidently she was an influential member of society there. And it seems like she had a pattern of helping students out that way.

MA: And tell me a little bit about Corvallis. What were your impressions when you arrived, of the town?

MY: It's a small college town, actually, 'cause the only thing there was the college. And I don't even remember the town, I don't think we went into town at all, hardly. There was no need for it.

MA: And what classes did you start taking in college and what were you interested in?

MY: I didn't have any idea of what I would go into. Living with the Yokotas, I think she was kind of influencing me. So I majored in home economics at that time and took all the normal subjects that you need to, basic subjects plus things that would lead toward home economics. But, and that's changed over the years. [Laughs]

MA: But in those early years, you were on track to be home economics.

MY: Evidently, yeah.

MA: And the other students at Oregon State College, what were they like and what friends did you have?

MY: We had quite a group of Nisei students from all over Oregon, Portland and all the small towns in between. So we had, I can't imagine, maybe fifteen to twenty maybe, Nisei students. And we used to have, get together socially because, just kind of drawn together, similar interests, families. So that was our, my only social contact. And I made friends that I kept in touch with beyond the college years.

MA: It must have been a change for you to have a, sort of, core group of Niseis around you.

MY: Yes, yes. Not knowing other Niseis prior, you know, it was, I guess it was kind of unique and enjoyable to realize that there were others like me that we could, we had something in common.

MA: And the gender balance within the Nisei group, was it equal men and women or more men?

MY: More men, I think.

MA: So it seems like you must have been one of the few Japanese American women at Oregon State.

MY: Right, yeah. There were very few of us women there at that time.

MA: And how did your interactions, I guess, with the professors and... was it mostly a sort of positive one, or how would you characterize that?

MY: As far as I can remember, I had no problems, and I didn't feel out of place like some people do. So it was a good experience.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

MA: So let's talk about December 7, 1941, the day that Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. What are your memories of that day and hearing the news of what happened?

MY: Yeah. I was, that was early in the morning of December 7th, so I hadn't gone to school yet. And I always took a breakfast tray up to Mrs. Buxton, Buxton was her name. She stayed in bed, so I took the tray up to her. And the news was on and so she called me and says, "Mary, come here, listen to this on the radio." She says, "There's a bombing, Pearl Harbor, by the Japanese." She was, she was really upset, which was totally out of her character. She reached over hugged me and she says, "I hope they don't take you away from me." I don't know what was going through her mind at that point, and I didn't realize what was happening either. But that was the first reaction after the bombing. And then things developed after that. All the planning that must have been going on is mind boggling, actually.

MA: You mean on the part of the government?

MY: Uh-huh, uh-huh.

MA: Well, what about when you went to school the next day or that week? Did you notice a change in the way people treated you or looked at you?

MY: I don't remember that, but I remember our Nisei group getting together and we were all concerned. And everybody was exchanging notes that they got from their families at home wondering what was gonna happen. And so we were just kind of tossing around what would be happening to us.

MA: Were there rumors about some sort of removal or some sort of internment at all?

MY: Not at that point, until we started getting notices. That's when we realized that it was serious. And we just, and families back home were evidently getting notices of some kind that they were going to be evacuated. So then things really got heated up. So we met quite frequently, I guess, to exchange ideas that came from home and our thoughts. So we got closer together as far as communication and predicting the future and all that kind of thing.

MA: But the other, the sort of white students at Oregon State --

MY: At the school.

MA: How did they, how was the relationship with them after Pearl Harbor? Was there any problem?

MY: I don't, I don't even remember having any problems. I don't think they really realized at that stage that we would even be involved, you know. So I didn't see any reaction or anything.

MA: And it sounds like the woman you worked for was supportive of, wanted to support you.

MY: Yeah, yeah. And she, I guess she must have had some forethought about possibilities that could happen if something like this... she was an intelligent woman.

MA: Were you able to communicate with the Yokotas at that point through letters? Or what were the Yokotas kind of saying about Medford?

MY: No, I don't think I had any kind of contact with them, or communication. I don't recall any. 'Cause the next time I ever saw them was in the camp. And my younger sister was with them, so as soon as I got into camp I wanted to find her. So that's when I found out that... actually, we were pretty close as far as living in the camp was concerned.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

MA: So you mentioned receiving a notice about the internment, or about what they called evacuation, and you were in Corvallis.

MY: Uh-huh.

MA: So what did you do? Where were you headed, where did they send you?

MY: As I recall -- and I don't even know how I got there -- but we were supposed to take a train from Portland. So we had to go from Corvallis to Portland and I don't know how I even got there to catch this train that was going to take us to Tule Lake.

MA: So you went right from, so you went to Corvallis and Portland to Tule Lake.

MY: Uh-huh.

MA: But in Portland, how long did you stay?

MY: I don't even recall. I don't know whether we went from bus to the train or...

MA: Oh, so it was just a short time, it was...

MY: Yeah, I didn't have to, there was no staying there as I recall.

MA: So there was no, like what they called assembly centers.

MY: No.

MA: You were not sent to an assembly center.

MY: No, no.

MA: And were you with the group of Nisei students from Oregon State?

MY: Most of them went to join their families, and the rest of us just went on our own, followed the orders, where we were supposed to report. It was a confusing time. [Laughs]

<End Segment 6> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

MA: And tell me about arriving to Tule Lake and your first impressions and sort of what you remember when you, I guess, stepped off the train or saw where you were going to be basically imprisoned for the next three years.

MY: Yeah, right. Didn't really know what to expect. But I had, when we landed there, I noticed the train tracks came right to the gate, and there was no tracks beyond. So that was odd, I thought. Either they built the camp with that in mind, or I don't know what. But anyway, that struck me. But then I saw friends from the college that had preceded, and they were all there to greet us, so that was a good feeling to know that there were some friends there. But there was so much blank spaces, I don't remember how, how we got from the train to the, to inside the gates. And we were issued, I remember being issued a bag that we were supposed to fill with straw. And then we got barrack assignments, and I don't know whether someone showed us where the barracks were, 'cause it's a massive place. I don't know how people would find where they belong. So there must have been some system set up, but I don't even remember.

MA: And you were sort of by yourself at that point.

MY: Right, right.

MA: Who did you stay with? Who did they place you with in your barracks?

MY: They had me assigned to a barrack with my father and my brother. And then Mona, my younger sister was, naturally, went with the Yokotas. And so they were in another barrack. And I don't even know how I found them, but I did.

MA: Had you been keeping in contact with your father during this time, I mean, when you were staying with the Yokotas?

MY: No. I didn't even, I knew he was in Vancouver running a strawberry ranch.

MA: Vancouver, Washington?

MY: Washington, uh-huh. And that's all I knew until I saw him in camp.

MA: Were you surprised when you saw that you would be, that they assigned you together, or were you sort of expecting to see him there?

MY: I wasn't expecting anything, actually. I didn't know what to expect. So I can't remember our meeting, even seeing him, I don't remember my reaction. So much blank... evidently, I must have blanked a lot of things out, because I was just talking to my son the other day and I said I just can't believe that a whole year went by and I can't, don't remember a single friend that I... I don't know what I did for that year. It's all gone. 'Cause he was asking, "Well, what did you do for a whole year? And I said, "I don't know. I just don't remember anything." I don't remember people. You'd think you'd develop a friendship along the way. I said, "I have high school friends I still keep in touch with, but it's really strange."

MA: So what are some of the things that you do recall about Tule Lake or that stand out to you?

MY: I just, the thing that stands out is the picture of the barracks, and that's about it, I guess. And the guard tower with the sentry standing there, 'cause the barrack I was in was close to a fence. I think we were close to the entrance fence, so there was a guard tower right there, so couldn't miss him. [Laughs]

MA: Yeah, it seemed like it was always present.

MY: Right over you, yeah. You walk out the door and there he is.

MA: What about your brother? You mentioned that he had polio. Was he still sort of sick?

MY: He, no, he was a little handicapped, which bothered him a lot. One leg was stiff, and one arm. But he's kept in touch with our father, and he was helping him on the strawberry ranch, evidently, at the time. So they went together. Then we all, one by one, I came out first and then our family gravitated out to Minnesota, so picked up a few pieces.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

MA: And you left Tule Lake right after a year, you said. So this was, like, 1943 or so, when you left?

MY: Let's see. We went into camp, would have been '41? No, '42.

MA: '42.

MY: '42. So it would be '43 then, yeah. I guess it would be '43.

MA: And why Minnesota? Why did you end up there?

MY: Well, I saw an ad in the camp near the administration building. A little, just a little want ad at (Tule Lake) that said a family in St. Paul wanted a maid to come and work in their home. And so I wrote to them, and this was a prominent family in St. Paul. And followed up, and so I thought, well, gee, working in a home with... I'd have a place to stay and food to eat, so at least to get started on the outside. So that's how I ended up in St. Paul.

MA: And what did you think when you first arrived? Was it kind of a shock?

MY: [Laughs] The shocking thing to me when I left the camp on the train was seeing trees the whole, almost the whole time coming from Tule Lake to Omaha, Nebraska, I guess, is where I transferred. And the whole way, it was just trees. I couldn't get over seeing trees, 'cause Tule Lake is a desert, you know, lake bottom. So I didn't realize how good that looked, green outside. But in St. Paul, it was just, I don't know, I don't remember too much, it's just a city.

MA: And how were you treated by people in the city in general?

MY: As far as I can remember, we were accepted well. We had no problems.

MA: So there were never any times where you were maybe, felt discriminated against?

MY: Not at that point, no. I think the family kind of protected us. We didn't go out much because we had no, no way of... and then during the summer, the family went out to their lake place, so spent the summers out there, so we didn't have any contact with the general public there. Then before I knew it, why, we were back in the city and then I started looking for colleges that I could continue.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

MA: Tell me a little bit more about this family that you worked for. What did they do? What was their occupation?

MY: They were a prominent family. And I think the husband -- I never did meet the husband of the wife, because he was working in Washington, and I don't even know what he did. They had a daughter that was going to Smith College and son that was younger, he was ten years old at that time. So he and I became buddies. And he taught me how to play tennis, so that was fun.

MA: Was there another, you mentioned there was a group of you working there?

MY: Not there, but in the city in St. Paul. Others were coming out doing the same thing with other families. So that's when we, and I don't even know how we got together, but we finally established a group of... so on Thursdays, the "maid's day out," we'd always get together and go out to eat or something.

MA: Was the "maid's day out" sort of a common thing among all people who worked in homes?

MY: Yeah, right.

MA: Where were some places that you would go, some favorite places?

MY: There was one Chinese restaurant, I don't think he's still around, in, I think it was downtown (Minneapolis). And sometimes we'd go to... in fact, I invited the group out to my home where I worked, or out to the lake, because it would be a chance to get together. About that time, Fort Snelling was coming alive, so we were seeing the boys coming into town, so we got to meet some of them and have get-togethers.

MA: It seems like Fort Snelling and the language school really drew a lot of Niseis to the area.

MY: Plus, it, I think, made it easier for people here to accept the Japanese because of the language school. That's why I came back here, because I felt that the people here were more tolerant of us and accepted us. And I think that's because of the language school. 'Cause the boys always come into town and shop or mingle around and they were seen.

MA: Yeah, that's interesting. I'd imagine that would have an impact.

MY: Right. Because when I was working at the first job that I had after I graduated from college in Texas, I was working for the YWCA in Minneapolis. And kind of started the US, what they called USO and invited the guys to come for dances and socials and things. So it was kind of a gathering place for the Nisei girls to come around. That's how I met my husband.

MA: Was that a dance or a USO activity?

MY: I'm sure it was a USO activity, 'cause I was working at the Y at that time.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

MA: Going back a little bit to when you were working for the family in St. Paul, were your foster parents and your sisters and your father and brother, were they all still in camp?

MY: Yeah.

MA: So they were still in Tule Lake.

MY: Yeah, right.

MA: When did they start coming out of camp? Was it when it closed?

MY: I think it was when it closed. I brought my sister out here, so the foster family were just a couple Isseis, so they stayed there 'til it closed and then they went back to Medford. And I don't, I think my father did, too, but I don't know where he went after the camp closed. Because somehow he knew where I was, so he came down... I was surprised, he came down to my graduation in Texas. And so we got together that way. And then he and I came by bus up to Minneapolis after I graduated. And then we set up... he bought a house so that we could have some place to stay, and kind of planted our roots here.

MA: I see. So he eventually came out and settled in this area.

MY: In Minneapolis, right.

MA: And when did your sister come out again? She came out of camp to join you and...

MY: My younger sister came out about a year after I did because I found another family member that would take her in as a maid. And then my older sister was in Minidoka, and she, after I came out and she found out I was, we were out here, she applied to Mayo Clinic, or hospital, in Rochester, and went there to work as a nurse. And so the three, three of us were able to get together. And then my brother was working warehouse in Chicago, I guess, after. And so he came when we got the house, he came to live with us in Minneapolis, too. So slowly we kind of pieced our family together. [Laughs] What there was left of it.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

MA: I wanted to talk with you about going back to college. And so the war broke out when you had just finished your first year, is that right?

MY: I wasn't finished. It was towards the end of the first year, I guess.

MA: Okay, so you were in the middle of your, or towards the end of your first year at Oregon State.

MY: Right.

MA: And did you always, was that always a goal during the war and in camp? Did you always know that you were going to go back to college, you always wanted to return?

MY: I had no idea of what the future looked like. I just couldn't think of it. But I'm sure in the background, back of my head, I realized that that's what I would like to do. And where that was instilled, I'm not sure.

MA: And you worked in St. Paul then for a while.

MY: And then I started looking for colleges that I could go to that would offer scholarship or fellowships, because I didn't have any money. And I wrote to most of the colleges around here, Minneapolis, and they all, colleges at that point had a quota system, they would only take so many Japanese students. So all the colleges, their quotas were already filled. So I wrote to the student, what's it called? Friends Service Committee that had a committee set up for finding places for the Japanese to go. And so they referred me to a college in Texas, that's how I got down there.

MA: I'm curious about this quota system that you mentioned.

MY: I don't know what, where it came from or what it was. I really don't even know what it was. But I kept hearing that when I was applying.

MA: So they would write back and say, and tell you that there was a quota?

MY: Yeah, that they didn't have any openings or something like that. Or they didn't have any, probably scholarship money or fellowship money available, or some excuse, anyway. But I got turned down at all of them. I can't remember which ones I wrote to, just the major ones, I think.

MA: And it was all around this area.

MY: In Minneapolis, yeah.

MA: So what college did you end up attending?

MY: Texas Wesleyan College in Fort Worth. And they had put in an application for two, two Nisei students. I guess they knew about the camp and students looking for colleges. So they had put their application into the American Service Committee that were placing students. So they asked for two, two Niseis.

MA: That's interesting. So they, and you ended up going along with another Nisei.

MY: Another, yeah.

MA: That's interesting. It seems like they had a quota, too, almost like they were asking for only two students?

MY: For two, uh-huh.

MA: It didn't seem like it was that way on the West Coast, necessarily. What do you think...

MY: I don't know what was going on on the West Coast. I don't know if they were even allowed, were they?

MA: Yeah. But even before the war...

MY: Oh, before the war.

MA: Like, I wonder if it was a wartime thing, quota?

MY: I think this was more of a wartime thing. 'Cause I guess they didn't know what to expect, and I guess I could understand that. They were putting out a goodwill gesture to invite Japanese students.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

MA: And so you went all the way down to Texas for college. What was Texas like? I imagine it was quite different from Oregon and Minnesota.

MY: It was quite different, especially the drawl, the southern drawl. That was hard to get used to. Funny thing is, when I spent four years down there and came back up here, everybody was teasing me because I ended up with a drawl, I guess. [Laughs] I didn't know it, but the kids just thought it sounded so funny. [Laughs]

MA: And did you stay in the dorms or did you stay with a family again in Texas?

MY: No, they assigned me as a dorm assistant to pay for my room and board. In fact, they even assigned a, I call it, not really, but a bodyguard. They were taking precautions, I guess. So if I had to go off campus, I had to go with another student that would be like a bodyguard, I guess.

MA: So they were taking precautions in case someone in the town was angry or targeted you in some way. Did anything like that ever happen?

MY: No, no, except a positive thing is when I went downtown trying to get on the city bus, I at first didn't know where to sit, so I went and sat in the back of the bus.

MA: Was it because it was segregated?

MY: It was segregated, so the bus driver motioned me to come up. And so he said, "You don't belong back there," and I said, "Well, where do I belong?" He said, "Anyplace else." So that was my only experience with segregation.

MA: How did you feel having to have a bodyguard accompany you out into town?

MY: Well, he was a nice student, a senior, and kind of like a friend more than anything else. 'Cause I never went alone, I always went with this other girl or some other girl. You know, go shopping or something.

MA: Did it make you feel like you stood out in any way?

MY: No. I guess we just kind of fell in. And we didn't experience any kind of segregation. So I wasn't, I didn't have any qualms about going downtown, because we were well-accepted.

MA: How aware were people, I mean, at all, if at all, in your college? Or professors or... about the camps or what was going on with the internment?

MY: I don't think they knew much, from what I could tell. So I don't think they even realized that we were in a camp. And I don't know if they even realized that we were Japanese, because there were so many Mexicans down there. So I think that helped to integrate, you know, the community. I'm sure that helped in making it so easy.

MA: Just thinking back to when you were on the bus, was the segregation with white and Mexican?

MY: White and black.

MA: And were Mexicans sort of included in that segregation as well?

MY: No, it was black.

MA: Just black only.

MY: Uh-huh.

MA: You were studying home economics in Oregon State. Did you continue on that track?

MY: I, being in a church college, this was Wesleyan Methodist College. So I changed it to religious education as my major. But I never pursued that as a profession. Instead, I went into social group work when I came to Minneapolis, working at the YW with Y teens, teenage kids.

MA: And what year did you graduate from college?

MY: That was 1946.

MA: And you said that you always knew that you would go back to Minneapolis after you graduated?

MY: I think so. I felt comfortable here and accepted, and I didn't know where else to go.

MA: So going back to Oregon or Medford was sort of out of the question?

MY: Out of the question, I think. 'Cause I had gotten my sister out here, and my older sister was here, and my father and my brother, so we kind of planted our roots here, I guess.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

MA: And coming back to Minneapolis, you got involved with the Y.

MY: Uh-huh.

MA: So what types of things did you do? You mentioned you organized...

MY: Y Teen groups, actually.

MA: Y Teen groups? And who were these teens that you worked with?

MY: These were all high school, I don't know what age group, if it was all seniors. It was the upper grades of high school. The girls could join this Y Teen Club. It was kind of like a social group, but we did all kinds of things. And we had, there were about four of us group workers that had assigned to different schools. So I had two schools that I went out to every day and worked with the girls.

MA: And were these, like, public schools in Minneapolis?

MY: Yeah, they were all public schools.

MA: And what were the races of, what was the racial sort of breakdown of the students you worked with? Were they some Japanese, some...

MY: They were all Caucasian.

MA: All Caucasian?

MY: Uh-huh. I don't remember... except later years, I remember a few Sanseis that were in one of the schools that I started working. Depended on the location, mainly.

MA: And then where were you living when you moved back to Minneapolis? Did you find a place to live?

MY: In north Minneapolis, we looked for a house out in... near one of the schools, which was close to a suburb. And there, we, the realtor that my father had contacted to look at homes, we ran into discrimination as far as housing. Because the realtor said he had to check with a neighbor to see if we could live next to them. And so he went over and talked to the neighbor and they didn't want us. I don't know what the exchange was as far as conversation, but I said, "Well, we don't want to move here anyway if that's their attitude." So we kept looking and found one in north Minneapolis which was a predominately Jewish community at that time. And blacks were moving in. So we found a house there close to a streetcar line so we could get to work and back.

MA: Do you think because it was a Jewish community they maybe have been more accepting of you?

MY: I think so. Any minority, I think, you know, tend to take care of each other. So I lived there until my sister and I, after our father went back to Japan, he left it up to my sister and I and we... can't remember if I -- no, I think we sold it and then I moved into an apartment with some of the girls from the Y until I got married and moved on.

MA: Did your father move back to Japan permanently?

MY: Yes. I think that was his goal all along. He wanted to see that his family was taken care of, and I guess he felt the time was then and he could go back. His family was all, all his brothers and sisters were still living, so he wanted to go back and see them. That was the last we saw of him.

MA: And you mentioned that you would organize social activities through the Y for a lot of the, like, USO activities. It seems like the Y must have been kind of a social hub for the Niseis.

MY: It was. It was a gathering place. From there, we'd go on hayrides and all kinds of activities. And the boys from the, from Fort Snelling would come in. So I think a lot of 'em met their husbands that way, like I did.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

MA: And do you remember meeting your husband for the first time?

MY: No, I think it was arranged through his brother. His brother I used to see before my husband was discharged, 'cause he was coming down to the Y. And so I think he... he's younger, he was his younger brother, so I think he was looking for somebody for his older brother. [Laughs]

MA: And was your husband in the MIS?

MY: Uh-huh.

MA: Did he serve overseas?

MY: In Japan. He served in Tokyo for about a year, I think.

MA: During the American occupation of Japan?

MY: Uh-huh.

MA: What did he tell you about that? Did he ever talk about it?

MY: He never talked much, and he didn't like, he didn't want to have anything to do with the service. He didn't even want to be buried out at Fort Snelling. He just had something against the military, I guess.

MA: Do you know why?

MY: He never would talk, so I don't know why.

MA: In Minneapolis after the war, did you notice a lot of Niseis sort of leaving or moving back to the West Coast as they started opening it? And how did the community change in those years?

MY: I don't think... I'm not, I haven't been too close with the Japanese community, so I'm not sure. But seems to me like there weren't too many that were going back, they liked it here and started their families. So as far as I know, there weren't too many going back.

MA: And how long did you work at the Y?

MY: Let's see, '46 'til '52, I guess.

MA: And did you do the Y Teens that span of time?

MY: Uh-huh.

MA: Six years.

MY: Yeah. I used to take busloads of kids to conventions. And we did, I directed the Y camp for one summer when the camp director quit. So it was a variety of experiences.

MA: So you enjoyed working with the teenagers?

MY: Yes. I wouldn't now, but... [laughs] back then, yes. It was a challenge. You always have one or two that create a real challenge for you.

MA: That's what makes it interesting, I think.

MY: Right, right. Yeah.

MA: And tell me about your children. You have three children.

MY: Uh-huh.

MA: And when were they born and what are their names?

MY: Let's see. My oldest daughter was born in '52. What would that make her?

MA: Fifty-seven.

MY: That sounds about right. Then I have another daughter that's three years younger, and a son that, he must have been born in '47. No, he's ten years younger than the oldest one.

MA: So sixty-two?

MY: Yeah, I guess that's right, yeah. He just became a grandpa. [Laughs]

MA: And how many grandchildren do you have?

MY: I have seven grandchildren, and I lost count on the great-grandkids. [Laughs]

MA: It's a big family.

MY: My oldest daughter is the one that has all the kids and grandkids and great-grandkids. But my second daughter, she has two, a son, Matt, the one that's going to the U, and a daughter that I went to New York beginning of this month for her college graduation from Hunter College. She's going on to med. school. And then my son, his daughter graduated from the U, but she's working for Supervalu in, I don't know what capacity. And then his son is a pilot for Northwest, and my son's daughter's the one that just had the new addition.

MA: And after you left the Y, did you continue to work? I imagine it was because you had your daughter in '52?

MY: Yes. We were married in '50, and in '52, I think, I was expecting my first child, my daughter, so that's when I quit the Y.

MA: Did you go back to work after you had your kids?

MY: No. Later, after they were all out of, you know, up in years, I think my son was still in school when I went back to work. But I stayed home for the other two.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

MA: And what did you tell your kids about the internment or about what happened during the war? Did they ask questions, and how did you communicate that with them?

MY: They didn't, I don't know. They just... I think they were interested, but I don't know if they knew enough to even ask questions. I'm part of a book that we wrote here in Minnesota. It's called Memoirs of Japanese American Women in Minnesota. And so I gave each of my grandkids a copy of our book so that they could get a little bit of history there. And they never really asked too many questions, and I hear that that's pretty common. Kids aren't picking up on it. I think it's the Sansei, the Yonseis that are picking up on this whole incident.

MA: So your grandkids, then, it seems like some of them are very interested in your experiences.

MY: Yeah. And even my son now, all of a sudden, is asking me all kinds of questions, which before, none of the kids ever talked about it.

MA: Do you think that the redress movement and the, sort of, government apology in the '80s for internment, do you think that contributed to this change in the way that people were aware of the internment or talked about the internment? Or what impact do you think that the redress had?

MY: On the general public, I don't think it had much influence or impact at all. Because it was never, it's never been published, it's always been kept under wraps. And even that was, the complaints you get is the amount of redress that we got, which we didn't even want.

MA: The complaints like people would say something to you...

MY: Saying that we got so much money. Not knowing why, really, because they don't even know why. I think that's one of the sore spots of that, which is too bad. But I've been doing the... I haven't lately, but I was doing a lot of speaking to high school upper class seniors, mostly, I think. One of the teachers were, the older generation of teachers that knew something about what happened, the younger teachers now, they don't know anything about it. So I haven't had any calls from anybody anymore. But I used to talk to high school groups, community college groups that would call and ask me to come and share.

MA: That's interesting that you noticed as the years went on, people became less aware of the internment and there was less of an interest.

MY: Right. The younger... and I think that's because of the topic being so hidden, you know. The government is ashamed of what they did, they don't want it publicized, so people don't know about it.

MA: And when you were speaking to students, what types of questions would they ask you? Were you ever surprised by something they asked or what they knew or didn't know about the internment?

MY: Most of 'em had never heard of such a thing. I have a set of pictures that I take and show them. And I try to make it as simple as possible, you know. But they did come up with questions of why. So they were, I think the high school seniors were perceptive. They were curious to know what went on and why. So I felt that we should at least let them know that such a thing did happen and could happen to anybody. I always tell 'em it could happen to anybody, so we need to know about it. That was my main purpose in sharing.

MA: Well, is there anything else you would like to share before we end, or any messages you'd like to leave or just anything else you'd like to talk about?

MY: Well, I think we've covered pretty much everything. My main thing is the blank that I have about what went on in camp. And I guess that's pretty common, evidently. Because so strange to live a year with people in a confined area and not remember what happened for a whole year. I was telling my son, "I don't remember making a single friend." And what I did, I don't remember. So it's too bad.

MA: Yeah, but like you were saying, maybe there was some, you maybe intentionally on some level blocked it out or something.

MY: Right, I'm sure that's what we did. Maybe it's a coping mechanism. But I have, I'm fortunate I have good health still at eight-six. So I can't complain that way, I guess. The hard labor was worth it, I guess. [Laughs] People ask me, "How in the world do you look so good at eighty-six?" I said I think it's because growing up on a farm doing hard labor, I think, is the key. Our bodies took a beating then. But I'm sure that's part of the preservation.

MA: I think so. Well, great, thank you so much. This has been a great time.

MY: Well, thank you for this opportunity, yes. I'm glad you're doing this to bring it to the attention of people.

MA: Thank you again.

MY: Thank you.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.